No. 22




The Estonian Local Government Reform of the End of the 1930s in the Light of the Local Government Values of Today

15 December 2010


RiTo No. 22, 2010

  • Mikk Lõhmus

    Mikk Lõhmus

    Ph.D., Adviser, Local Government Policy Department, Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture

The article focuses on the local government reform in Estonia that was prepared since the middle of the 1930s and carried out at the end of that decade.

On the basis of the local government values acknowledged today, the author assesses the local government reform of 1938 first of all form the aspect of rural municipalities reform, estimating whether the purpose of the reform was merely to change the borders of municipalities and reduce their number, or to regulate their functions, system of financing and management model. He finds that it was a forced reform carried out by the state. The functions of rural municipalities were not changed and their revenue base did not change significantly. Thus, the most important aim of the rural municipalities reform was to reorganise the boundaries of rural municipalities and to bring them into conformity with the changed social circumstances. This resembles several administrative reform conceptions proposed today, which also do not speak about enlarging the functions and revenue base of local governments but first of all concentrate on more efficient solving of existing functions, hiring qualified officials and guaranteeing investment capability. The most important nuance of the reform of 1938 was the political aspect of the reform, that is, increasing the influence of the state over rural municipalities. It was mainly expressed in the adopted Rural Municipality Act and its provisions. Indirectly, the saving of costs achieved through the reduction of the number of rural municipalities also served the interests of the state. Unfortunately it is not possible to assess the impact of that rural municipalities reform in mid-term or longer perspective because the occupation that started soon after it severed the development of the state. The development of local governments in Estonia stopped until the beginning of the 1990s.

Full article in Estonian